All’s fair at the fair

The Jefferson County Fair turns 60 this year and for exhibitors and guests, it’s got a number of new features to mark the occasion. What started as a two-day event in 1953 has grown into a week-long extravaganza that brings out more Jefferson County and area residents each year.

Here at the Spirit of Jefferson, we’re proud to be a part of carrying on this grand tradition that celebrates Jefferson County’s still-thriving agricultural community. This week, the Spirit publishes its annual Jefferson County Fair Special Section. Along with providing a schedule of the week’s events, the publication offers a glimpse at some of the new features and attractions, from the expanded hog pen to the new layout for commercial exhibits.

We’ll be out there at our booth all week. We hope you’ll stop by and say hello.

Survey says!

Robert Maynard Hutchins likened the exercise of learning to a conversation — a Great one, he called it — and it’s that idea that frames my own thinking about the media, newspapers in particular. Opening up a day’s paper is like engaging the members of your community in a chat, what is happening, what matters, what is being talked about.

Some weeks back the Spirit asked readers to submit their responses to a survey about what they liked best and least about us. The request wasn’t asked in order to get a pat on the back for a job well done; the Spirit has made many changes this last year, from its addition of a regular Business section to its expanded Life section. There have been other changes too; we’ve fleshed out policies on obituaries, submissions from lawmakers and revised our editorial point of view, to boot (or so it’s been said).

We received 16 returned surveys to date. All of them had good things to say about what we’ve been doing of late.

I’d like to take a moment to summarize some of the responses.

Many readers wrote to say how much they enjoy our front page coverage, in fact so much so that that ranked the number one response on most surveys. Readers also enjoyed our editorial page and also our Life coverage, a few remarked how much they enjoyed reading Out & About, which grew out of a desire by Life section editor Christine Miller Ford to give some calendar items a little more oomph. I enjoy the results so much that most weeks I’ve reserved a color page for it.

What else: Bob Madison’s sports coverage is a favorite. So is the photography. Readers are also pleased by the return of columnist Patt Welsh to our pages. We couldn’t be more happy to have Patt share her recipes with us and you.

Readers also overwhelmingly approved of the switch to two sections. The move was largely borne from an inclination to eliminate sections that were comprised of no more than a single sheet as the Sports and Business sections had been being at the start of the summer. The biggest surprise of the move for us was turning that front page and being hit with a full palette of color. You liked that too, judging from the surveys.

We’re pleased to note that the survey responses echoed the results at this weekend’s West Virginia Press Association convention where the Spirit took home 32 awards, including a First Place General Excellence Award for advertising and a second-place General Excellence award for our editorial content. It was the best showing for the Spirit, ever.

We’re grateful for the recognition and grateful too for those of you who took the time to give us some feedback on our efforts. When I came on board this time last year I had one goal in mind; give this community the newspaper it deserves. No small undertaking: a little, close-to-the-ground weekly in a market saturated with dailies — some of them the major, metropolitan kind — sure needs to find a place for itself and it can’t do it by doing what the dailies can do better. Throw in a population as diverse as Jefferson’s and higher goes the bar.

But we’re clearly getting your attention. The Spirit of Jefferson strives to be the outlet through which this community speaks among its members. Thank you for joining the conversation.

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